It has been several months of relative silence within the Rugby fraternity, broken only yesterday by a series of well-choreographed tweets by two former senior players of the Kenya 7s Rugby National team.
The ex-players – Willy “Lomu” Ambaka and Dennis “Salmon” Ombachi – served the game at the senior level for many years and with distinction, represented Kenya at the HSBC World 7s Circuit, the 7s Rugby World Cup and the Kenya’s participation of the inaugural Olympics in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.
In the process, they became not only the most high profile and prolific point scorers for the country but also ranked among the top paid athletes as well.
Our own “Githeri Media” has heralded the revelations in these tweets as “breaking their silence” and “coming out of the closet” by these retired players.
“Githeri media” sure does love controversy…
These ancient allegations come against the backdrop of a brutal fight over the next 2 weekends by the youngsters in the current Kenya 7s set-up, who will attempt to ward off relegation and retain Kenya’s core status in the World 7s Circuit.
Action this weekend will be at the London 7s before the final leg of the circuit in Paris on 1st and 2nd June.
Obviously the ill-advised tweets (on the eve of the penultimate leg of the entire circuit) by 2 of the most celebrated 7s players were intentionally expected to have a destabilizing effect, both on the playing unit and also on the supporting general public.
The message being sent out subliminally was that neither the players nor the coach have the capacity to retain Kenya 7s in the circuit. Ambaka’s disgraceful personal attacks on the Head Coach are meant to undermine his authority with the players and technical bench members.
In which Universe or even organisation have you ever heard of players or employees selecting their bosses or supervisors? Why would Kenyan fans (themselves either employees or employers) support the claim of Kenya 7s ex-players to be involved in selection of the Head Coach and TB members?
One year ago in Paris and in what became one of the most shameful acts by Kenyan sportsmen, the Kenya 7s ex-players literally broke the back of the 7s game, when they used masking tape to black out the sponsor logo on the shirt front of their playing jerseys.
Serious prospective partners who were itching to take over from Brand Kenya in sponsorship of the team, quietly melted away in horror.
Kenya corporates, many of whom have always had strained relations with their workers unions which sometimes led to industrial action (strikes), understood the action of these ex-players to be an act of economic terrorism.
Who doesn’t remember a very angry Hon. Najib Balala announcing that his Ministry would no longer support Kenya 7s? Wasn’t it the “Make It Kenya” logo that the then 7s players tampered with, which denied the Government massive visibility it needed to market the country?
This action plus the subsequent strike was premised on a fallacy.
The ex-players sold the same “Githeri media” the lie that their salaries and allowances were outstanding for many months, despite the availability of funds. Sadly, some members of this media bought into these untruths, hook, line and sinker.
For instance, during the 18-month period between October 2016 and April 2018, the Kenya 7s players’ salaries had NEVER once been delayed (see chart below) which then begs the question, why would anyone rational block a sponsors logo in the month of May?
Ambaka and Ombachi love to pontificate about player’s inability to pay rent and others taking home “a measly” $280 monthly.
These players, in that same period (Oct ’16 – Apr “18) were each earning upto Ksh. 170,000/- per month. Which then begs the question, with such a salary, why would any of them be unable to pay rent?
During which month did Ambaka return home “from sleeping in 5-star hotels” only to find his house locked for non-payment of rent?
Unfortunately, the misguided actions of these ex-players in Paris that day, lost KRU the only stable sponsorship that would have sustained such salaries. In its absence, KRU had no option but to slash the salaries accordingly and offer the players the less ideal (but sustainable) salary.
There were those who have accepted this salary and those who have rejected it, which has led to the drafting of a younger crop of players, who are currently doing duty for their country.
So, why would Ambaka and Ombachi wish to destabilize the current player set-up on the eve of such a crucial relegation battle?
Simply to ensure that Kenya is relegated, and the misguided narrative that only a certain crop of players (and coaches?) could have ensured our continued core status.
These senior ex-players know for certain that should Kenya survive relegation this season, their literal goose is cooked. Why would any coach need their services afterwards?
The second reason why these ex-players would want to destabilize the younger players in the current squad is because 2020 is an Olympic year.
The Olympic Games enable players to make massive windfall amounts of money from the state, just for participation. Participating in the Olympics is also its own reward, for matters of pride and National recognition.
Those who follow Rugby blogger Arigi Obiero on his Ministry of Rugby pages will be familiar with his nauseating and often repeated refrain, that “Ma-otero lazima wacheze Olympics…”
These ex-players, who were both in the National team during the 2016 Olympics (Rio) and the 2018 Rugby 7s World Cup (San Francisco) collapsed under the weight of their own entitlement and performed worse than dismally. In both these high profile tournaments, the Kenya 7s team had both the resources and the Technical Bench that they apparently approved of. Why did they crash and burn?
Ombachi, because he realizes that he speaks to a Rugby audience that does not verify information, confuses them with half-truth and innuendo. For instance in his twitter rant he compares the 1st class treatment of Russian Olympians with the 3rd rate treatment of ALL Kenyan Olympians, but places the blame of this National scourge at the feet of Kenya Rugby Union. How now?
Shouldn’t the blame for this fall squarely within the ambit of the NOCK, the Kenyan Sports Ministry or the State?
The players hope to use this series of tweets and the prospect of relegation to foment a social media crisis that will cause the intervention of President Kenyatta or Sports Minister Amina Mohamed, for their recall and capitulation to their financial demands.
They seem to have borrowed from the script used by former Ghanian football Captain – Asamoah Gyan – who pre-empted his imminent permanent axing from the Ghana Football team to the African Cup of Nations next month,where he pulled off a PR stunt by publicly “retiring” on the grounds that his captaincy had been unfairly taken from him and given to a junior player.
The gullible Ghanian media, seized of this issue and run with it for an entire day, finally prompting the intervention of Ghana President Nana Akufo Addo who brokered a deal where Gyan was incorporated in the team.
Only recently have the more discerning Ghanaian journalists understood just how masterfully they had been played by Gyan, a spent cartridge who will probably be a divisive figure in the team during the tournament.
A school of thought is fast gaining currency within Rugby circles, for the country to cast our lot in with the younger, upcoming players, no matter the eventuality.
For pride, common sense, sanity and a clean slate – that Kenya Rugby Union should allow these players to permanently retire from the representative sides with the love and admiration of a grateful country, for their service.
Happily, fans from all walks of life especially those who aren’t currently suffering serious tunnel-vision have started to see these ex-players ploy for what it really is –self-serving and detrimental to the game in Kenya.
For a long time now the KRU has been the soft target of diabolical attacks, concocted in the depraved minds of some of these ex-players. At the ballot 2 months ago, the affiliates (those Rugby leaders who work daily to ensure the game actually exists in the country) sent an unequivocal message – Did these guys misinterpret it?
Do I think that Ambaka and Ombachi are really “entitled shits” as the latter alluded to in his rant?
With this new stunt, they have removed any shred of doubt in my mind.
Would you like to get published on this Popular Blog? You can now email Cyprian Nyakundi any breaking news, Exposes, story ideas, human interest articles or interesting videos on: firstname.lastname@example.org. Videos and pictures can be sent to +254 710 280 973 on WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.